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Puerto Ricans Are American Citizens
Puerto Ricans Are American Citizens
September 22, 2000
To the Editor:
As an individual who usually disregards the bias and ignorance of the uninformed, I find myself reading the commentary of Claire Lincoln of Landisville. I guess what adds insult to injury is the fact that you have decided to print such unenlightened sophistry. It appears it is up to those who are conscious of the world around them to enlighten those who are not.
A short history:
1493 -- Christopher Columbus discovers Puerto Rico and its inhabitants, the Taino Indians. They call the island "Borinken" or "Borinque," which means "The Great Land of the Valiant and Noble Lord."
1508 -- Spanish colonization begins; the first school is established in Caparra.
1511 -- The Taino Indians revolt against Spaniards with no success. Ponce de Leon orders 6,000 shot; survivors flee to mountains or leave the island.
1521 -- The intermingling of Spaniards and Taino Indians was allowed. This historic intermingling has resulted in a contemporary Puerto Rico without racial problems.
1522 -- San Jose Church is founded. It's the oldest church still used in the United States of America.
1616 -- Arecibo (my hometown) founded.
1786 -- The first history of Puerto Rico is published.
1835 -- On June 25, Queen Maria Cristina abolished the slave trade to Spanish colonies.
1867 -- Puerto Rico reaches a population of 656,328; its population recorded as 346,437 whites and 309,891 "of color" (this category included blacks, mulattos and mestizos.) While illiteracy was 83.7 percent, the intellectual minority remained relatively active within the limitations imposed by local Spanish authorities.
1868 -- On Sept. 23, several hundred women and men revolted against Spain for Puerto Rican independence. The event took place in Lares and is better known as the Cry of Lares ("Grito de Lares").
1895 -- The Puerto Rican flag is first used on Dec. 22 and adopted as a national symbol.
1898 Spain renounced all claims to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.
1900 -- Puerto Rico became the U.S.'s first unincorporated territory.
1902 -- Cuba declares independence; United States declares Puerto Rico a territory.
1903 -- On March 9, University of Puerto Rico is founded. U.S. officially designates Luquillo Forest Reserve the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest System.
1906 -- On Dec. 11, during a visit to Puerto Rico , U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt addressed the Puerto Rican Congress and recommended that Puerto Ricans become United States citizens.
1916 -- On Dec. 5, the Jones Act is approved. With this law: 1) Puerto Rico becomes U.S. territory; 2) U.S. nationalizes all Puerto Ricans as citizens and allows Puerto Ricans to elect their legislature. (300 rejected the citizenship and many others refused to join the Army.) Amended in 1921, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1935, 1938, 1940, 1947.
1917 -- On March 2, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act. Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States "organized but unincorporated," and it gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship and a bill of rights and also established a locally elected Senate and House of Representatives. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signs compulsory military service act into law. 20,000 islanders are drafted into World War 1 (May).
1936 -- Women given full suffrage.
1940 -- The United States Congress grants U.S. Citizenship to Puerto Rican natives.
1945 -- Puerto Ricans began to emigrate to the United States, looking for jobs and better economic situation.
1947 -- On Aug. 5, United States Congress decides to allow Puerto Ricans to elect their governor. President Harry Truman signed the act.
1948 -- The first governor is elected by the Puerto Ricans. Luis Monoz Marin is elected.
In the past 52 years the Puerto Rican people realized many other historical moments. I'll stop here because I think I have made my point (I hope). To recap:
1) Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
2) While on the island we cannot vote; but can be drafted.
3) While on the mainland, we can and do vote.
4) We have been drafted and proudly served in all of the major and minor conflicts of the Unitd States, and have died protecting its way of life.
5) We pay taxes.
6) We are proud of our Puerto Rican roots and our U.S. citizenship.
Maybe the answer to why we have not wanted statehood can be found in the lessons we have learned from native American Indians, native Hawaiians and native Alaskans.
So goes the lesson.
September 22, 2000
Miguel Perez is right on the money ("Should Puerto Ricans vote for U.S. president?" Other Views, Sept. 15).
As someone born and raised Puerto Rican but who has lived on the mainland for more than 15 years, I am appalled by the fact that our fellow American citizens of Puerto Rico cannot exercise the most fundamental right of their citizenship: to vote for the commander in chief who sends their sons and daughters to protect and preserve peace and democracy throughout the world.
I have voted in every election since I moved to the mainland.
However, if I were to move back to Puerto Rico, I would lose the right to vote in the general election for president.
And what is more disturbing is the fact that if I were to move to China or any other country of the world, I, as an American citizen who was born in the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico, could simply go to the American Embassy and exercise my right to vote for the president through an absentee ballot. Now, is that weird?
American citizens should be outraged at the way things are. It's time for all to ask Congress to get serious in authorizing a binding referendum to insist that all American citizens of Puerto Rico decide what their relationship with the country should be. That will be the day that all fellow American citizens from Puerto Rico will finally end the century-old issue of colonialism.